Indian security agencies have alerted Sri Lanka that another team of the National Thowheeth Jamaath (NTJ) led by Jal al-Quital alias Rilwan Marzag could carry out more attacks, Hindustan Times reported.
Noufar Moulvi, brother-in-law of NTJ founder Zahran Hashim alias Abu Ubaida, recently returned to Sri Lanka from Qatar and had taken charge of the group, they added.
Abu Ubaida is believed to have been the suicide bomber who targeted Shangri-La Hotel with military grade explosives.
The NTJ, the little known group blamed for the bombing of churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Sunday, appears to have been inspired by Islamic State (IS) though direct links between the two are yet to be established, people familiar with developments said on Monday.
A video released by Al Ghuraba Media featured the seven suicide bombers allegedly involved in the attacks. Except for Abu Ubaida, the others had their faces covered and the video had messages in Arabic and Tamil. A caption in the video read “O Crusaders, this bloody day (21-04) is our reward to you”.
Though some quarters in Colombo felt the bombings were in retaliation for the March 15 Christchurch mosque attacks, others said it was believed the NTJ had been planning the attacks for over three months.
Indian counterterror experts described the NTJ as a self-radicalised Salafi group inspired by the IS, though a link between the two is yet to be established. A number of Sri Lankan Muslims who recently flew back from Qatar had been arrested for their alleged role in the bombings.
An intelligence officer, who requested anonymity, said the attacks couldn’t have been possible without months of planning and international players travelling to Sri Lanka to take part in the execution at different stages.
According to SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadi groups, IS supporters were celebrating the attacks, and one supporter had released photographs of three attackers, calling them “commandoes”.
Senior officials, who didn’t want to be named, said India extended support for the probe after Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena and PM Ranil Wickremesinghe on Sunday and offered counterterror and medical support.
India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval too spoke to the Sri Lankan leadership. However, given the political sensitivities, India will provide only backend support rather than being proactive in bringing the terrorists to book, the officials said.
India had also provided “operational grade intelligence” to Sri Lanka on an imminent attack by the NTJ on April 4, they said. Sri Lanka’s focus has been on preventing any revival of Tamil separatism and this was perhaps why Colombo hadn’t taken New Delhi’s warnings seriously, they added.